Ellie Black of Canada
With nearly everything going according to plan in yesterday’s team final competition on the Gold Coast, the Canadian women were able to defeat the reigning gold medalists from England to pick up their first Commonwealth Games team gold medal since 1990.
Having finished fourth in Glasgow four years ago, Canada had to start on bars in the third subdivision rather than getting a primetime spot. It wasn’t easy for them to finish their solid meet and then have to wait hours, watching England and Australia in the final subdivision from the stands to see where they’d end up, but with falls counted from the gold and silver medalists from 2014’s Games, the Canadians ended up just edging out England by a little over half a point.
Led by two-time Olympian and 2017 world silver all-around medalist Ellie Black, the team showed an impressive fight from start to finish, overcoming two falls — one from Black on bars, the other from the relative newcomer Jade Chrobok on beam — to count only hits into their total of 163.075.
Black, who led the all-around qualification with a 53.900, got off to a bummer of a start, falling out of her Maloney to Hindorff connection as the third up on bars, but once she got that out of her system it was nothing but smooth sailing, both on that event and throughout the rest of her excellent day.
After the fall, Black hit her Shang, piked Jaeger, Pak, van Leeuwen, and nearly stuck toe front half dismount, got a 13.650 on beam to lead that final after nailing her switch leap mount to leap series, punch front tuck, solid layout series, and double pike dismount with a small hop, put up a strong floor performance that included an incredible front double full to front tuck and stuck double full to finish, and then ended her day on a super high note, hitting her handspring layout full with just a small bounce and then sticking the tsuk 1½, the best I’ve ever seen her hit that vault.
Her 2012 and 2016 Olympic teammate Brittany Rogers was lights-on today, nailing her first performance since last summer’s Universiade with a stuck DTY and tsuk full on vault, the second-highest bars score of 14.200 after catching her piked Jaeger, toe full to Tkachev, Shang to Pak, and double layout with just a few minor form issues, and then contributing a much-needed solid beam set in the anchor position, keeping the team from counting a fall with especially solid work on her flight series and Kochetkova.
Isabela Onyshko was excellent on all four of her events, qualifying fourth into the all-around with a 52.950 while also earning spots in the bars and beam finals, with both events going well enough for her that we got to see her break out of her normally reserved shell to fist pump, one of my favorite moments of the day. For Onyshko, some form issues held her full scoring potential back a bit, but she was able to rely on difficulty and mental toughness to more than make up for it. I thought her double front dismount off bars was one of her most controlled in quite some time, and despite some bobbles on beam, she looked really strong on her tuck full series and on her full Y turn to full turn.
Competing her signature events, vault and floor, Shallon Olsen was about as good as you could hope, qualifying into both finals including first by a large margin on vault after crushing her Cheng and DTY in prelims. Vault is second nature to her at this point, and she does her DTY as easily as if she’s strolling down a sunny street, but she’s always making improvements on floor, and aside from some bounces or steps on three of her landings, this was an excellent routine.
Last but certainly not least, I was incredibly impressed with Chrobok, who led the team off on bars with the best set I’ve seen her do in a long time, and despite a fall on her acro series on beam, she walked away with her head high and confidence strong, moving on to put up another great set on floor. She slipped seamlessly into Rose-Kaying Woo’s role with very little notice, performing admirably both as a competitor and as a teammate, always waiting off the podium with a high five or a hug, and no one sang louder (or smilier!) than she did when the team finally got to hear their national anthem with the gold medals around their necks.
Coming into this meet, I said that Canada would be likely to beat England, but qualified that by saying England wouldn’t exactly make it easy for them, even though nearly the entire team came in as second options. But while I knew they could score similarly on paper, I’m also a realist and assumed the inconsistency that has plagued many of these gymnasts would be what held them back.
In the end, I was partially right — it was counting a fall on beam that kept them from taking over the lead, but deep down I expected it to be much worse, and I was so thrilled to see that not only were they pretty excellent on all four events, but that they were able to come back from those mistakes so easily, counting only the one fall when they could’ve been at risk for much more.
Top all-arounder Kelly Simm, second going into the final, was a gem from start to finish, nailing her Lopez on vault before showing one of her best bars sets ever, showing not a single issue on beam, where she also nearly stuck her high double tuck dismount, and looking solid skill-wise on floor even if she did have a bit too much adrenaline, causing her to step out-of-bounds on her opening double layout and follow-up tucked full-in. This has been an incredible season for Simm, and this meet was the cherry on top.
Alice Kinsella also really stepped it up here, going four-for-four to qualify third all-around as well as earning spots in the beam and floor finals. Kinsella actually got off to what looked like a disappointing start after seeing her face looking a bit crushed when she landed her DTY with buckled knees and a couple of steps back, one heel going out-of-bounds. But she quickly recovered, leading off the bars rotation with a lovely set that ended with a near-stuck arabian double front, anchoring beam with a superb routine that followed two sets with falls, and looking about as solid as she can on floor, showing a hint of relief and happiness on her face before she could finish her ending pose.
It also wasn’t a smooth start for Taeja James, who looked like she wanted to stick her Yurchenko 1½ but was just a bit far back on her heels to make it happen, keeping her out of the vault final. She came back with some form errors on bars, but she made it through without anything major going wrong, and then she anchored floor with the best routine of the competition, nailing her 1½ through to triple full, double tuck, front layout to front double full, and 2½ to finish, earning a 14.100 to lead the floor qualifications by a huge margin.
Her teammate Georgia-Mae Fenton also leads going into an event final, with her bars routine looking incredible for a 14.600 after catching her Derwael-Fenton to Ezhova, Maloney to clear hip to Ricna to bail to toe shoot, and a tucked full-in with a tiny bounce. She also showed just how good she can be on beam, with a gorgeous back handspring mount before a Valdez into her flight series, a clean double spin, a lovely switch leap to full Y turn, and a clean and stuck double full to finish. She did fall here, though, going for the super difficult Sugihara turn, but looking wild throughout, leaving her unable to keep it on the beam.
I was actually surprised to see her go for that skill considering it’s such a risk and there was a fall in the routine before hers; a downgrade or scrapping it completely could’ve made her a medal contender with how well she looked otherwise, and a hit routine would’ve put England in line for the gold. But bars was Fenton’s biggest concern coming in, and she more than took care of business there.
Lucy Stanhope, one of the last-minute additions to this team, was basically here for her superb DTY, which was absolutely beautiful in the air and she had tons of power and distance from her strong block. A bounce on the landing with one of her legs flying up kept her from scoring higher, but she did contribute a 14.3 here, which ended up being the team’s best on this event. Stanhope had two falls on beam in addition to sitting a punch front out of her 2½ on floor, and just looked a bit nervous throughout, which is what happens when you don’t have a ton of international experience. A new senior last year, Stanhope didn’t get any assignments in 2017, and so her only senior international experience coming into this high-pressure meet was the Stuttgart World Cup a few weeks back, but I think once she gets control of her nerves she could add even more depth to this program than she already adds with her vault.
I didn’t have a ton of expectations for Australia, mostly because we’ve only seen bits and pieces from this team over the past year, and it’s hard to take on blind faith that a team will show up in fighting form when pretty much all of them hadn’t competed more than an event or two this season. I’m glad my expectations were a bit low, because they definitely ended up surprising me so much even with some mistakes counted into their program, and they were able to snag the bronze medal even with these mistakes, which is a testament to how good they could be with a bit more work and experience coming into a meet like this.
The MVP for this team is a toss-up between Emily Whitehead and Georgia-Rose Brown. This was Brown’s first all-around competition in nearly a year, and yet she looked like she had never stepped away. With a beautiful anchor set on bars earning a 14.000, a gorgeous beam set with excellent work aside from a large wobble on her side somi, lovely work on floor aside from a big rebound back on her double tuck, and a clean FTY, Brown ended up qualifying fifth into the final with room to improve, and did an excellent job leading this team against the odds.
Whitehead, meanwhile, was at her best on her events, leading off the bars rotation with a lovely toe full to Maloney to Pak, Khorkina, and nearly stuck double front dismount before crushing beam with another solid leadoff routine, and then capping off the meet with a solid Yurchenko 1½ and a tsuk full on vault, getting her a spot in the final where she should be in medal contention. After getting injured just as she was starting her 2016 season, taking her off of the Olympic Test Event team, this marked Whitehead’s first large-scale team competition at the senior level, and she more than delivered, making her someone they should really focus on going forward if they want to get a full squad back to the Games this quad.
Only competing on floor, Alexandra Eade also got her job done well with a routine that will also be in contention for a medal. Clearly a fast-learner in the school of Brestyan’s Legs, Eade is physically able to tackle high-level tumbling with ease, looking excellent on her big double layout, 1½ through to double tuck, front tuck through to excellent double full, and a double pike in addition to also nailing her leaps with great amplitude. Though she was only here for the one event, it was well worth having her on this team and she should be thrilled with how things went.
Both Georgia Godwin and Rianna Mizzen unfortunately had falls, with Mizzen muscling a toe full on bars, causing her to hop off, in addition to crashing her double tuck after an otherwise solid beam set, while Godwin split the beam and fell on her switch ring in an otherwise dream set for her, moving on from that to sit her second pass on floor.
It was definitely a bummer, though both made up for their mistakes with good performances elsewhere, as Mizzen had some nice moments on floor before sticking a clean and solid FTY for a 13.700, while Godwin was excellent on bars, especially on her impressive hop change to Weiler kip to Weiler half to Maloney to Pak to toe on to van Leeuwen series, and she’ll get a chance to redeem herself in tonight’s all-around final, though unfortunately Mizzen’s meet ended here.
I was definitely a little gutted that Wales finished off the podium by about a point and a half, but I do think despite many fantastic individual performances and fewer large issues from Wales, the Australian team was clearly the stronger one as a whole. With a difficulty deficit on top of some weak links on every event, the Welsh team was only going to claim a medal if Australia truly melted down, but really, Australia only had one fall that ended up counting, and their bars and vault rotations were so good that they afforded them the chance to make mistakes later on.
The standouts for Wales, as expected, were Maisie Methuen and Latalia Bevan, both of whom led the team throughout and currently sit in sixth and seventh going into the all-around final. Both had some minor mistakes here and there — Methuen’s most severe issue was a short landing on her double pike at the end of her floor set while Bevan had a break at the hips on her double spin on beam in addition to some bounces on her vault and floor landings — but overall they were solid and lovely, really setting the pace for this team to make them a legitimate medal contender.
Methuen had a strong handspring front pike half on vault to start her competition, but bars and beam were her standout events, and her performances on these got her into both finals. On bars, she looked especially lovely in her toe full to Maloney to clear hip to Tkachev, and she finished the set with a high and stuck double tuck, and the British beam champion was excellent on this event with a beautiful back handspring mount, a solid triple flight series, and a gorgeous double spin, earning a 13.250 to qualify in third place.
Making the bars, beam, and floor finals, Bevan was just slightly behind Methuen on both bars and beam due to slightly weaker form on both, though her bars work was solid and I loved her side aerial to layout stepout and front aerial to ring jump on beam. Floor was her true killer event, though, with clean tumbling, though her choreo, performance value, and little touches like her fouettés before the last pass really put this routine a step ahead of the majority of other competitors here this week.
Emily Thomas struggled with a form break on bars and some wobbles on beam, but put up a solid FTY with a hop back and an excellent floor routine complete with a double layout, whip to double tuck, front full to Rudi, and double pike to reach the floor final in seventh place, while Jolie Ruckley contributed a solid bars set with only some minor form issues and Holly Jones was excellent on vault with a Yurchenko 1½ and a handspring front tuck half that she almost stuck, qualifying her fifth into the vault final.
Scotland, Malaysia, India, and Sri Lanka also competed in the team event, but none was strong enough to contend with the top four, though all had some individual standouts.
For Scotland, this meet belonged to Shannon Archer, who was excellent on vault, bars, and floor, though unfortunately she was the team’s third of four athletes to fall in the beam rotation. She easily qualified into the all-around final, though, and also qualified into the vault final in a position that could make her a medal contender. Her teammate Cara Kennedy also reached the all-around and vault finals, both of which were great events for her in the team competition, and while Isabella Tolometti didn’t make any finals, I found her really promising on bars and floor.
Farah Ann Abdul Hadi had one of her best competitions in a long time if you pretend beam doesn’t exist. She had two falls there, on her back tuck acro series and again on her side aerial, but I’ve never seen her look better on bars (she hit her clear hip to Maloney to Pak effortlessly before catching her van Leeuwen and Tkachev), she stuck a gorgeous FTY cold, and her floor was insanely lovely, with a 2½ to front tuck, double tuck, and double pike all done mostly well, though she had a couple of bizarre moments with her leaps not quite getting where they needed to be.
For those not competing on teams, I found Stella Ashcroft of New Zealand super promising even if she did have a few falls here (and her attitude and sportsmanship regarding her falls throughout was top-notch), the South African gymnasts Claudia Cummins and Naveen Daries showed a solid level on their events even if they weren’t hitting as well as they can (and Cummins unfortunately cut short her floor performance with an injury, so it’s likely we’ll see the first reserve take her all-around spot), and we saw a couple of excellent low-key beam performances from Nicole Burns of Isle of Man (who nearly made the final) and Sana Grillo of Malta (who had an excellent punch front in her hit routine).
Full results from the Commonwealth Games can be found here. The women’s all-around final will begin at 4 pm on the Gold Coast, which is 2 am if you’re on the East Coast in the United States. You can watch on ESPN in the U.S., on the BBC in Great Britain, and Australia is also airing the competition streaming and on television. If you’re not from any of these countries, check your local listings or figure out a VPN!
Article by Lauren Hopkins
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